HydroWorx Bursting Bubbles Episode #1: Think the Pool Is Just for Lower Extremity Physical Therapy? Think Again!
One of the biggest misconceptions in the field of aquatic therapy is the persistent belief that therapy pools can only help patients who require treatment of their lower extremities. The foundation of this myth is easy to understand- people take one look at a four foot deep pool and picture an individual walking in it. Naturally, this means the patient is merely working his or her lower body, walking on the underwater treadmill and doing leg-related exercises. Yet this initial assumption totally misses the mark on all the ways that the pool can benefit those who require upper extremity physical therapy .
To give some background on the myth, as well as to totally debunk it once and for all, we turned to Veronica Paquette, PT, ATRIC, PRT, physical therapist and owner of the Vermont-based Essex Aquatic & Rehab Center. Veronica’s been a huge proponent of aquatic therapy for 15 years. However, when she first began working in aquatic environments, she too fell prey to the idea that she had to limit her aquatic patients to those with lower extremity issues.
Over time, though, she realized that with a bit of creativity and an open mind, her HydroWorx therapy pool could be the ideal resource for those recovering from conditions affecting their shoulders, arms, elbows, upper spine area and more. At her facility, she regularly treats people recovering from such conditions as rotator cuff tendonitis, rotator cuff repairs, shoulder replacements, shoulder impingement, elbow tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome.
So how does she get their upper extremities moving in the water? Check out some of these fantastic exercises she uses to speed up their healing process and get them back to a normal lifestyle as quickly as possible:
- Standing upright and leaning against the HydroWorx pool, the patient can begin to move his or her arms to the front and the sides. The water creates a bit of resistance.
- Standing away from the wall of the pool, the patient can begin to work on balance and stability exercises, such as squatting and using the upper extremities to stay in one place. With the resistance jets turned on, this can be quite effective!
- Lying in a supine (face-up) position while wearing a supportive lumbar belt, the patient can freely move his or her partially-submerged upper body. The aquatic physical therapist is also able to assist using manual techniques. Horizontal abduction and adduction exercises in this position encourage movement from the toes to the neck.
- Lying in a prone (face-down) position in the water while using a snorkel and mask, the patient can relax and allow his or her shoulders to move freely. As long as the patient is comfortable putting his or her face in the water, this position usually becomes a favorite activity during aquatic therapy sessions.
Of course, this is but a snippet of the multitude of upper extremities exercises possible in a HydroWorx therapy pool. The key is for physical therapists to be innovative in an effort to provide an adjunct to, or substitution for, more traditional land-based therapy modalities.
We hope you have enjoyed this HydroWorx Bursting Bubbles article! If you have another aquatic therapy myth you think we should debunk, let us know. Make sure to look for future Bursting Bubbles episodes from our team in the near future.